Panera Bread began in 1981 as Au Bon Pain Co., a fast-casual bakery and café chain, founded by Louis Kane and Ron Shaich. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the chain grew along the east cost of the United States and internationally. It dominated in the bakery-café category. In 1993, Au Bon Pain Co. purchased Saint Louis Bread Company, which was founded by Kenneth Rosenthal. At this time, the Saint Louis Bread Company was in the midst of renovating its 20 bakery-cafes in the Saint Louis area. The concept’s name was ultimately changed to Panera Bread.
By 1997, it became clear that Panera Bread had the potential to become one of the leading brands in the nation. In May 1999, to expand Panera Bread into a national restaurant, all of Au Bon Pain Co’s business units were sold, with the exception of Panera Bread. The company was then renamed Panera Bread. The company was operating 1,362 bakery-cafes in 40 states and 17 facilities that delivered fresh dough to the cafes daily.
Panera Bread still operates under the name St. Louis Bread Company, with its headquarters in St. Louis. The St. Louis area has over 50 locations. In 2005, Panera Bread was recognized as one of Business Week’s “100 Hot Growth Companies”, earning $38.6 million with a 42.9% increase in profits. In 2006, Panera Bread was recognized as the top performer in the restaurant category for one, five, and ten year returns to shareholders, reported by The Wall Street Journal.
In 2007, Panera Bread purchased a majority stake in Paradise Bakery Café, a Phoenix-based concept with over 70 locations in 10 states, the balance to be purchased in June of 2009. In 2008, Health magazine judged Panera Bread as the healthiest fast food restaurant. Also in 2008, Panera Bread began expanding into Canada, with Richmond Hill and Mississauga, both in the Toronto area.
As of 2009, the restaurant was named most popular for eating on the go by the restaurant review service Zagat. They were also rated #1 for best salad,...
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